Matthew 6:17 is the seventeenth verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the discussion of fasting.


In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint
thine head, and wash thy face;

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

But you, when you fast, anoint
your head, and wash your face;

For a collection of other versions see BibleHub Matthew 6:17


Fasting (verses 16–18) is Jesus' third example of 'pious deeds',[1] after previously discussing about almsgiving (verses 2–4) and prayer (verses 5–6).[2]

The previous verse attacked how the hypocrites made a show of fasting and made everyone around them aware of their pious suffering. In this verse Jesus councils his followers to hide any discomfort. Most scholars believe that anointing the head and washing the face were both considered parts of daily hygiene. Jesus teaches his followers to maintain an outer visage of cleanliness and hide any suffering they might be undergoing for their piety. Some feel that anointing was something only done on special occasions, such as feasts, and that Jesus is counseling dressing up when fasting. Hill, however, notes that this would be just as ostentatious as the exaggerated suffering of the hypocrites.[3] Imposing the discipline of denial, the disciples are told to be careful not to let it show, as John Phillips citing Campbell Morgan: "We are to have perpetual Lent in our souls and everlasting Easter in our face".[4]

Jesus in this verse assumes that his followers will continue to fast, just as they give alms and pray.[2] Although it is commented in Matthew 9 that Jesus and his disciples did not fast (Matthew 9:14), Jesus explains why fasting hasn't occurred during His ministry but will continue after (Matthew 9:14).[2][2]

In most Christian churches, with a noted exception of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, fasting no longer has a major role, though various forms of more limited deprivation, such as that of Lent, are practiced.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Coogan, Michael David (2007). Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann; Perkins, Pheme (eds.). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version, Issue 48 (Augmented 3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 16 New Testament. ISBN 9780195288810.
  2. ^ a b c d France, R.T. (2007). Bruce, Frederick Fyvie (ed.). The Gospel of Matthew. New international commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 254. ISBN 9780802825018.
  3. ^ Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
  4. ^ Phillips, John (2005). Exploring the Gospel of Matthew: An Expository Commentary. The John Phillips Commentary Series. Volume 1 (reprint ed.). Kregel Academic. p. 117. ISBN 9780825433924.


  • Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968

Preceded by
Matthew 6:16
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 6
Succeeded by
Matthew 6:18